French politics – always febrile, always awash with gossip – is dominated these days by speculation on who is best placed to succeed Emmanuel Macron as President. In former times, which is to say anytime up to the arrival in the Élysée Palace of Jacques Chirac in 1995, the question of who next did not move centre-stage until the last two years of the incumbent’s time in office.
De Gaulle could afford to scoff at the ambitions of his followers and underlings, who lived in his shadow, until the évenéments of 1968 put the skids under him. Mitterrand regarded the presidency as his right and stamped down hard on anyone who dared suggest that the State was perhaps not him. But, with the possible exception of François Hollande, who in 2017 refused to stand for re-election out of sheer embarrassment, all serving presidents have demanded that they be honoured and respected until the moment the removals men turn up to take their effects back to their equivalent of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises.